Arroyo-Obama Meeting Questioned

For the Arroyo government, it would be a dream photo ops come true. For the United States government, it would be a chance to reinforce their neo-colonial interests in the Philippines.

“Both Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and US president Barack Obama plan to utilize the meeting for their own gain. Arroyo needs the publicity as a boost for her failing regime. Obama needs this to ensure US that economic, political and military interests in Southeast Asia are maintained. It remains to be seen though if the people stand to gain anything from this meeting,” said Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr.

“How the meeting will benefit the Filipino people is not really clear. Arroyo is the outgoing president whose primary agenda now is how to stay in power. Crucial issues like human rights abuses by the AFP will not be on the agenda. The recent abduction and torture of a Filipino-American activist by suspected members of the Philippine military is not likely on the agenda,” Reyes added.

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Bayan said that Arroyo has been meeting with top US officials including US defense secretary David Gates and the director of the Central Intelligence Agency Leon Panetta in a desperate bid to get more support for her isolated regime.

Arroyo’s meeting with Obama will tackle issues such as counterterrorism and global warming. Earlier in the year, Obama called Arroyo to tell her that the Visiting Forces Agreement with the US was an important accord. Less than two months later, a US soldier accused of raping a Filipina was acquitted by the Court of Appeals. Bayan said that pressure from the US, including the Obama phone call, had a hand in the acquittal.

Reyes also described the upcoming meeting as somehow ironic given Obama’s pledge for change.

“Obama should be reminded of his own inauguration speech, where he said that those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent are on the wrong side of history. He will be meeting with Arroyo, a president known for corruption and human rights abuses in her own country,” the Bayan leader said.

“These high profile meetings, while they make for good photo ops for Arroyo, do not address many of the problems confronted by the Philippines. These meetings do not take up the worsening economic crisis, rampant human rights violations and worsening corruption. These meetings sadly, do not take up the problems with the RP-US Visiting Forces Agreement and the abuses that come with it,” Reyes added.

Malacanang has maintained that it was Arroyo who was invited by the US government and that she did not seek the meeting. This comes after efforts of the part of Arroyo to meet with the US president after his inauguration earlier this year.

“Arroyo wants to prove that she is the most reliable US ally in the region. She will go to Washington not with the best interests of the Filipino people in mind, but with her own agenda of securing US political and military support,” Reyes said.

The group also warned the US government from supporting moves to change the Philippine constitution which will allow Arroyo to stay in power beyond 2010. The US, through the American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, has long supported charter change and the lifting of restrictions to foreign ownership of land, according to Bayan.

“Arroyo’s move to stay in power and the US government’s drive to open up the Philiippine economy intersect with Charter change. That is something we should watch out for,” Reyes said. ###

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